Transfer granted in six child sex abuse deposition cases

Indiana Supreme Court justices granted transfer in six cases last week all addressing whether child sex abuse victims can be ordered for deposition in light of a state statute the Court of Appeals of Indiana has repeatedly held violates the Indiana Rules of Trial Procedure.

Among those cases, it penned an opinion in Steven Church v. State of Indiana, 22S-CR-201, a case in which the high court reversed a Court of Appeals ruling permitting deposition of child sex abuse victims.

Relatedly, the high court agreed to hear Randy Pate v. State of Indiana, 22S-CR-202, which resulted in the appellate court finding that a law passed by the Indiana General Assembly in 2020 which limited defendants’ ability to depose alleged minor sex abuse victims “impermissibly conflicts” with Indiana’s trial rules.

The statute, Indiana Code § 35-40-5-11.5, stems from Senate Enrolled Act 206 that passed during the 2020 session of the Indiana General Assembly. That measure prohibits defense counsel from deposing an alleged child sex abuse victim under 16 unless the prosecutor agrees. If the prosecutor does not agree, a court can still authorize the deposition if the alleged victim will be unavailable for trial, or if “extraordinary circumstances” exist.

The COA initially considered the statute as an issue of first impression in May 2021, but ultimately struck it down in the case of Donnie Louis Sawyer v. State of Indiana20A-CR-1446.  Justices also agreed to hear that case in the June 24 order.

Additional cases that were granted transfer include State of Indiana v. Aaron L. Riggs II, 22S-CR-205 and the memorandum decisions in State of Indiana v. Brendan P. Brown, 22S-CR-204 and State of Indiana v. Rashad Deandru Wells, 22S-CR-206.

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